The Credible Invasion series

Invasion of the Elite


Ministry of Defence

Emergency Report on the Cryptanalysis of the Aliens’ Secondary Communications

MOST SECRET/EYES ONLY

 

Soon after the aliens’ unheralded arrival, they created and distributed a device which could translate between English and their own language.

It was noted, however, that certain ‘private’ discussions, held between the aliens with no human input, were not translated by these devices.  It was soon realised that the aliens employ one language to communicate with us, and another to communicate between themselves.  This second language was not programmed into the translator.

Attempts to modify the translation devices to handle the second language proved fruitless, as it is currently not possible for us to produce interfaces between most of their technology and ours, so an ad hoc cryptographic team was assembled to work on and decipher the second language.

For historical reasons, the team was dubbed “the Bletchley Group”; it comprises linguists, archaeologists, software engineers, code-breakers from MI6, and mathematicians.

As could be expected, the initial progress of the group was extremely slow.  A language is far more complex than even the most secure of codes, and the team had only the spoken language to work with, so their first efforts were directed at pattern matching – attempting to find repeated phrases and clauses.

Around that time, the aliens introduced their new methods of global data transfer, which made most of the existing computer technology on the planet defunct, and caused massive ripples in all fields of commerce and government.

This “improvement” was largely disastrous – causing billions in losses in Britain alone, and greater financial damage elsewhere – and was soon abandoned; but it worked out well for the translation project, because it freed up massive amounts of “standard” computer time over the short term, giving the project a good kick-start.

Through sheer computing power, rather than finesse, a large number of repeating patterns were found.  The way they interacted with other patterns and sound groups was analysed by the linguists, who then had enough raw data to start making comparisons with known languages.

Progress slowed considerably again after the disaster in the Americas, which stemmed from the new farming techniques introduced by the aliens, because three of the key members of the group were United States citizens, two of whom felt compelled to return home to help with the relief effort.

Advancements were made, however, and the first identifiable words were found.  Using that albeit small vocabulary, the team was able to start seeking and identifying distinct grammatical structures.  The software engineers and code-breakers developed programs that allowed for rapid progress through trial and error of “best guesses” of the meanings of sound groups (words and/or phrases).  This was very successful, increasing the known vocabulary dramatically, and the project went forward in leaps and bounds.



-2-
 

There were, however, huge gaps in the comprehension of what the aliens were saying.  The linguists assessed this to be because the language is highly idiomatic, much the same as all Earth-born languages.  Many of the word clusters identified in the aliens’ speech seemed to be nonsense, because their meaning was hidden behind discrete usages that did not translate directly from the individual meanings of the individual words.

To overcome this difficulty, all agents and government operatives, all over the world, were tasked with recording as much of the second language as possible.

This effort was hampered somewhat when the aliens’ new power transfer grid proved to be inappropriate to the requirements of Northern Europe; and most nations, including Britain, were blacked out on-and-off for four months, during the change back to the old methods.

But the task of translating the language continued – manually, where necessary – and our knowledge increased.  The linguists came to the conclusion that the second language does not contain so many of what we would call idioms, but is largely constructed of something akin to phrasal verbs, with a subsequent word in a sentence changing the meaning of both itself and the previous word.

Armed with this knowledge, the software engineers came up with a backpropagation program that could identify and learn these phrasal links much more quickly than a human, and from there it was simply a matter of translating transcripts, checking, and double checking.

The language had been broken.  We could understand everything they said.

The only remaining hurdle was that of matching the language to the dialect of English which most suited its intent.

It was visibly a far less formal language than that which the alien translators handled; this much was observed from the way in which it was spoken, and from what the linguists called ‘particle deviation’. 

The first alien language is far more rigid and structured than the second – so much so that their translated suggestions come across as “commands from on high”, with lordly and almost religious overtones. 

It was felt necessary to transpose the second language in a similar way: To find the correct overtones that reflected the way the aliens themselves used it.

It took only a short time to arrive at the most appropriate dialect.  This was factored into a new backpropagation program, which was allowed to run until it had learned to be a fast and effective translator.

Appendix A contains a transcript of a recent discussion between three aliens, which took place a few minutes after their superconductor train system in France came to such an explosive and tragic end, and shortly before the current “Noah’s Ark” project commenced.




Appendix A...




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